A ustin boasts soooooo much good barbecue, but despite the saturation of old-school salt-and-pepper rubs, not every stack of post-oak-smoked brisket is worth waiting in line for. To separate the moist from the lean, we've compiled a list of the best barbecue joints in town. Naturally, these represent a spectrum of different experiences -- from revelatory bites worth 200 minutes of waiting, to late-night sandwiches that are best remembered "in the moment" -- and each of these establishments has been vetted as 'cue worth consuming. Go forth and gorge, but maybe lay off the barbecue sauce.
Logan Crable

LeRoy and Lewis

South Austin

New-school barbecue truck, LeRoy and Lewis are making waves in Austin with their unique approach to smoked meats -- keep it local, and keep it interesting. Pitmaster Evan LeRoy, formerly of Freedmen’s, chooses alternative cuts like beef cheeks and barbacoa from local producers for tender, flavorful meat sold by weight. The sides impress -- hello, BBQ fried rice! -- as do the rotating daily specials, like the recently offered wagyu Denver chuck roast from Peeler Ranch in nearby Floresville. And, in true L&L fashion, they’ve created another reason not to skip the most important meal of the day: breakfast bagels made with Rosen’s Bagel Co. bagels and funky schmears like chopped brisket or jalapeño popper cream cheese (house bacon, smoked jalapeño, Cheddar).

Smokey Denmark's

Govalle

Legacy Eastside businesses are a dying breed, but Smokey Denmark's -- a family meat-processing operation -- isn't going anywhere. Despite 52 years of sausage-making, it's still largely off the radar of the average diner, but the BBQ trailer out front is making a serious push to turn customers' heads. It took a couple years to hit its stride, but the barbecue has officially cracked the top tier of Austin trailers, thanks to near-perfect execution of all the classics, a jalapeño cheese sausage that's in a league of its own, and a world tour of regional sauces.

Valentina's Tex Mex BBQ

Valentina's Tex Mex BBQ

Brodie Lane

In the world of Texas barbecue, going fusion is a dangerous play. Half steps into other cultural cuisines like Micklethwait's barbacoa are one thing, but putting tacos on the menu is another -- and Valentina's is proof that it can work to wondrous effect. The owner was a fixture at Ranch 616 for years, before settling at the truck’s current home in South Austin, where he's now cranking out arguably the best smoked meat south of Lady Bird Lake. It's worth the trek for the homemade tortillas and smoked corn alone, but we can't get enough of the smoked carnitas taco, or brisket that makes a serious case for the virtues of mesquite. And don't miss the smoked corn, either.

Dan Gentile/Thrillist

Micklethwait Craft Meats

Rosewood

Arguably the best quality-to-wait time ratio in town, Micklethwait has, over the past three years, found the perfect sweet spot between paying homage to old-school Texas barbecue and innovating enough to turn the heads of traditionalists. The brisket pops with fat and post-oak smoke, while the pork spare ribs cling to the bone with just the right pull. Beyond the standard fare, you'll find rarer offerings like pulled goat, barbacoa, and a beef rib that won The Austin Chronicle's "best in town." Perhaps most importantly, though, the cheese grits vie for the title of best side in the city.

Lamberts

Lamberts

Second Street District

The last five years of barbecue in Austin have come to be defined by post-oak-smoking trailers, salt-and-pepper rubs, and colossal lines. But back in 2006, when Ruby's chopped beef was the best the city had to offer, Lamberts burst onto the scene with something different. It isn't “real barbecue,” in the sense that you're not ordering by the pound or eating off a cafeteria tray, but for smoked beef after 2pm, it's hard to beat the coffee-rubbed brisket, not to mention the crispy wild boar ribs, one of the city's best happy hour appetizers. Bonus points for Lamberts new Saturday and Sunday brunch from 11am to 3pm -- think oak-grilled hanger steak with egg in the hole -- plus the ability to wander upstairs to hear a bearded musician any night of the week.

Dan Gentile/Thrillist

Rollin Smoke BBQ

East Sixth

Finding decent brisket after 10pm is damn near impossible, and although you won't find slices of unsauced meat at Rollin Smoke, the smokey pecan and mesquite flavors of its sandwiches make for excellent stomach padding after a revelrous night at neighboring Hotel Vegas. Pork ribs aren't always offered, either, so don't miss them if they're on the menu.

Ashlyn Allison

Freedmen's

West Campus

Best brisket debates could last longer than the lines at Franklin, but there's no arguing that this is some of the best BBQ in Austin, without a crazy line, and killer cocktails to boot. The barbecue establishment offers juicy smoked brisket, ribs, pulled pork, and sausage, and they’re open for dinner -- a rarity in Austin. Cure your hangover with a Holy Mary during their weekend brunch: a massive, Texas-sized Bloody Mary with whiskey, topped with a slab of brisket, pork rib, and sausage.

Sean Cooley/Thrillist

Franklin Barbecue

East 11th Street

James Beard winner Aaron Franklin arrives at work every morning at 2am to start prepping and smoking meat; the beef he uses is hormone- and antibiotic-free, and thus, the fat reacts to lower temperatures and maintains juiciness. The fatty cuts are melt-in-your-mouth tender, and the lean cuts aren't far behind. Blackened "burnt ends" are a highly coveted prize -- much like the plastic baby found in a king cake -- so if you get one, make sure to buy a lotto ticket. That way, you can buy more barbecue... from Franklin Barbecue, of course.

Flickr/Joshua Bousel

la Barbecue

East Cesar Chavez

Here you’ve got either the best or the second-best barbecue in Austin, depending on who you ask. The dry-rubbed brisket at la Barbecue is smoked from 12 to 15 hours at a low temperature; when it’s sliced, you can see the distinct red smoke ring that indicates it was in the smoker for a very long time. Thanks to a talented pit crew, high-grade beef, and a lot of love, la Barbecue delivers moist, fall-apart tender brisket every Wednesday through Sunday... until it’s sold out. La Barbecue’s new digs at Quickie Pickie on East Cesar Chavez mean you can order cold draft beer while you wait.

Stiles Switch BBQ & Brew

Stiles Switch BBQ & Brew

North Lamar

In addition to standard offerings, Stiles Switch has three types of sausage, all perfectly cooked, with a nice “snap” to the casing: the Stiles Original (fiery pepper, beef, and pork mix), the Thorndale (mildly spicy beef), and the delicious, no-fail jalapeño Cheddar (beef and pork mix). Stiles Switch’s beef ribs deliver a blackened, peppery crust that contrasts with the juicy pink-red interior. Pitmaster Lance Kirkpatrick spent the better part of a decade working alongside Bobby Mueller at the Louie Mueller Barbecue in Taylor, and his pedigree shines in these offerings.

Black's BBQ Austin

Black's Barbecue Austin

Campus (& other locations)

Although everything on the menu is smoked to perfection by fourth-generation pitmaster Barrett Black, we have to recommend the giant beef ribs. Make sure you show up with an appetite; these babies weigh anywhere from 1 to 2 pounds. The raw meat is beautifully marbled, and, when smoked over local post oak, renders out to a juicy, beefy, smoky hunk of deliciousness. Boxing legend George Foreman, of the Foreman grill (apparently so good he put his name on it), is such a fan of Black's offerings that he once ordered 200 giant beef ribs to cater a party he was hosting.

Kerlin BBQ

Kerlin BBQ

East Cesar Chavez

Bill and Amaris Kerlin, a husband-and-wife team, go against the grain with their approach to smoking brisket. Most pitmasters follow the traditional “low-and-slow” method of cooking the brisket, but Kerlin BBQ smokes its meat on high heat for a shorter amount of time. The result is a crispier, darker bark all around, and tender meat that retains its moisture. Find the Kerlin BBQ trailer in East Cesar Chavez and enjoy plenty of outdoor seating.

SLAB BBQ & Beer

SLAB BBQ & Beer

Multiple locations

BBQ purists, look away… SLAB's new-school concept and slick marketing sell the heck out of its mouthwatering sandwiches. Noobs should dip their toes into these meaty waters with a Notorious PIG, pulled pork topped with mustard coleslaw and backyard red sauce, while gluttons for pain will enjoy The Donk, a behemoth 1 pound mound of pulled pork, chopped brisket, shredded chicken, Smokey Denmark sausage, coleslaw, queso, and jalapeños between two buns.

Julia Keim

Kemuri Tatsu-ya

East Austin

An izakaya -- a Japanese neighborhood pub that serves small tapas-style plates -- may seem like an unlikely place to find Texas-style barbecue, but in Austin anything is possible. The word kemuri translates to "smoke" in Japanese and here, typically Texan smoked offerings like brisket and sausage are served alongside smoked mackerel and BBQ eel. In true izakaya fashion, grilled skewered meats like miso-marinated scallop and chicken tails can be found on every table. Much to our delight, Tex-Mex flavors also make an appearance, as in the Tokyo street corn (grilled corn dressed with yuzu pepper aioli and cotija cheese). You'll also find playful cocktails, sake, and sochu, as well as Japanese AND Texan whiskey and beer.

Brown's Bar-B-Que

Brown's Bar-B-Que

South Lamar

Even in a highly competitive BBQ market, Brown's Bar-B-Que is proving that great food doesn’t have to come with hype or a huge price tag. Austin native Daniel Brown smokes his certified Angus brisket for a whopping 20 hours, achieving the perfect crust and smoke ring. He also smokes a mean (and huge!) pork rib, incredibly juicy chicken thighs, and sides like mac & cheese, sweet potato salad, and his famous bacon-laced sauteed cabbage. You'll find Brown's trailer outside of Corner Bar on South Lamar!

David Wakefield/Thrillist

EastSide Tavern

East Cesar Chavez

Executive hef Cade Mercer is the former pitmaster for Lamberts, and at EastSide Tavern he's created a space where real smoked Texas BBQ intersects with bar food, beer, and cocktails. Ribs, pulled pork, poultry, and the ever-popular juicy brisket are all sold by the pound, but also manage to steal the show in offerings like the BBQ-loaded baked potato (topped with queso, sour cream, BBQ butter, scallions, and your choice of meat) and the over-the-top Heartstopper burger (brisket, pulled pork, sausage, bacon, jalapeño, onion, and queso).

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Austin's Best New Restaurants of 2017

Published On 11/13/2017
T here were plenty of restaurant openings in Austin this year, but the best ones all had a few things in common: comforting, un-gimmicky foods, served in chic surroundings, by (unsurprisingly) the top culinary talent in the city. They may not be the places with 4-dollar-sign price points, or the ones with two-hour weekend waits, but each of the restaurants below quickly earned top spots on Austin’s “You’ve gotta eat here” board. Whether you start with pimento and peacocks on the patio of a historic Victorian home, or by submitting your naughtiest behavior into a confessional box after an order of fries and soft serve, you’ll enjoy eating your way through Austin’s best new restaurants of 2017.
Thomas Allison / Thrillist

Bonhomie

Burnet Avenue

Casual-yet-refined French/American diner with classic cocktails
Chosen as one of Thrillist's Prime 13 best new restaurants of 2017, this French bistro/American diner mashup features the tinge of Asian flavors you’d expect from chef Philip Speer, former director of culinary operations at Uchi. Don’t expect to find any pretension here -- Bonhomie is approachable, casual, comforting, and yes, affordable! The double-meat burger is oozing with Dijonnaise and cheese, the pommes rosti are crispy potato birds’ nests with toppings like roasted mushrooms, caramelized onions, and spinach (our favorite), and the croque monsieur and French onion soup are so over-the-top-rich that you practically have to share them. There are no literally no wrong choices, except not dining here -- or drinking here, thanks to the full bar and fantastic cocktail list.

Robert Lerma

Holy Roller

Downtown

Comfort food, cocktails, and kitsch from pastry chef Callie Speer
Callie Speer, former pastry chef of Swift’s Attic and Geraldine’s, opened punk rock diner Holy Roller as a labor of love, alongside an all-star team of women including beverage director Jen Keyser. The menu is full of comfort food, and each Texas classic is stamped with Callie Speer’s signature whimsy, like the addictive Trash Fries (gravy, sunny-side egg, sour cream, corn, lime, and cotija cheese) and the migas kolache (stuffed with queso, crispy potatoes, and jalapeño). Better still, Holy Roller caters to Austin’s brunch-obsessed masses by serving it all day on Sundays, including the Sunday School menu of pastries and tasty cocktails based off the Seven Deadly Sins. Drop a confession note in the box by the bathroom, and it might just get chosen as inspiration for Holy Roller’s next special cocktail.

Kemuri Tatsu-ya

East Austin

Mash-up of a Texas smokehouse and a Japanese gastropub
Describing Kemuri Tatsu-ya to the uninitiated gets convoluted: a Japanese izakaya in a former Eastside BBQ joint, with Texas influences and a killer Japanese whisky selection? Sure. The menu starts with bites like the uber-popular, Gouda-and-brisket-stuffed Hot Pocketz, and ends with ramen served with a thick dipping broth and fiery jalapeños, but not without a few twists and turns along the way. The “odd bits” menu offers tiny dishes of the (very) funky squid marinated in its own guts, as well as sweet and sour marinated jellyfish, while the yakitori offerings range from familiar chicken meatballs to challenging chicken hearts. And don’t even get us started on the cocktail program; arguably one of the best in Austin, the menu features fun, shareable portions served in kitschy vessels (like the Matcha Pain Killer, served in a cat-shaped cup). Think of Kemuri Tatsu-ya as a choose-your-own-adventure dining experience; stay in your comfort zone or get weird, it’s all up to you. Whatever you do, though, order a crisp Orion lager: it gives your go-to light beer a run for its money.

Nicolai McCrary

Soursop

South Congress

Pan-Asian fusion served on the patio of a craft brewery
Soursop, the pan-Asian trailer serving bar food on the patio of St. Elmo Brewing Co. is a standout in the neighborhood, the food truck landscape, and Austin in general for a few reasons: inventive flavor profiles, the fact that St. Elmo’s beers magically pair with everything on the menu, and the culinary team’s (possibly tongue-in-cheek?) shrine to Guy Fieri. Menu offerings occasionally change, but our favorites don’t appear to be going anywhere -- namely the Water-Burger (a refreshing burger made with ground chuck and brisket, caramelized onion ranch, lettuce, marinated cucumber, garlic pepper, and toasted rice powder), and the huge, sticky sambal wings (jumbo whole wings, Thai chili, palm sugar, fish sauce, coconut vinegar, peanut, mint).

Charles Reagan

Native Hostel

East Austin

Upscale hostel and bar serving modern diner classics
Hip digs and a kitchen with generous hours add up to Austin’s newest hotspot for sleeping, eating, drinking, and checking out live music and DJs. The kitchen has everything an Austin guest (or resident) could want, comforting diner food, brunch and lots of vegetarian options. With picks like the fried chicken sandwich (pickle brined chicken, dill pickles, pickled peppers, mayo) and the meatless chilaquiles (veggie chorizo, corn tortilla chips, pickled peppers, tomato, avocado, queso and sunny-side-up egg), this is the sort of food that late dinners and (ahem, challenging) breakfasts require. Pro tip: Native serves brunch until 3pm on weekends.

El Chipirón

South Lamar

Spanish tapas and cocktails found on first floor of residential building
A new kid on the block, El Chipirón earns its stripes with Spanish tapas and pintxos in a modern Euro setting alongside a lovely cocktail menu with an emphasis on gin and tonics (like The Tejano, which involves lots of smoke and herbs). The menu is decked out with meat and cheese boards, small plates, and a couple of large options like the juicy lomo de vaca (44 Farms strip steak, Padrón pepper, LaFou demi-glace, tomato, potato); standouts include the squid ink (colored and flavored) black rice with squid, mussels and scallops and tabla de ibéricos loaded with Spanish chorizo, Iberian ham, salchichón, and accoutrements.

Laura Hajar

Pitchfork Pretty

East Cesar Chavez

Stylish eatery taking a chef-forward approach to modern Southern fare
Helmed by executive chef Max Snyder, Pitchfork Pretty appeared seemingly out of nowhere -- before anyone realized what happened, East Cesar Chavez was home to a design-forward, A-frame building with a mix of chef-y small plates and hearty fried chicken, and cocktails that satisfy both the cucumber margarita and whiskey crowds. The concept is hard to pin down but easy to fall in love with. Critics are rightly swooning over the pickled quail egg on crispy leeks -- a perfect bite consumed like you would an oyster -- and the gluten-free, chickpea flour-breaded fried chicken brined in a habanero vinegar.

bao'd up

Bao'd Up

Mueller

Fast casual joint for steamed buns and bubble tea
Bao’d Up, Mueller’s new steamed-bun-dedicated restaurant from chef Ting Li, is making waves with its bite-size offerings made with the sticky, steamed bread in multiple forms: baozi, mantou, gua bao, and bao fries. We like the simple BBQ pork bao and Szechuan fries topped with spicy mayo, sesame, and green onion, and no trip to Bao’d Up is complete without a build-your-own bubble drink; the matcha and taro are favorites.

Nick Simonite

Mattie's

Bouldin Creek

Elevated Southern cuisine served among live oaks and peacocks
The former Green Pastures (which now refers solely to the event space), Mattie’s is the revamped new concept from Austin developer Greg Porter and La Corsha Hospitality -- which operates Second Bar + Kitchen and Boiler Nine. With its marble countertops, exquisite light fixtures, copper hardware, and textured wallpaper that begs to be touched, the new skin applied to the home’s old bones is incredibly gorgeous to behold. The menu is also just as impressive, whether you’re having dinner in one of the many dining rooms or on the lawn alongside the resident peacocks. Southern dishes sprinkled with French and Asian influence as well as untouched classics like pimento cheese and fried chicken eggs Benedict sparkle at Mattie’s... just as much as the dreamy surroundings.